Childhood obesity in the UAE is on the rise, but the knock-on effects it is having on our children’s oral health is not getting the attention it deserves. The statistics speak for themselves. A 2013 Dubai Health Authority (DHA) report shows that 80 per cent of children aged between 12 and 15 years have unhealthy gums. And for 15 to 17-year-olds, this figure sits at 57 per cent.
Taking into consideration the fact that 40 per cent of 11 to 19-year-olds in the country is classed as overweight and obese, this link between childhood obesity and bad oral health seems blatant. « Although it may not be scientifically proven through studies here, this is what I call a common-sense link, » Dr David Roze, founder of Dr Roze and Associates dental practice, told Khaleej Times.
Treating about 1,000 patients each month – 250 of which are children – he said the « multiple snacking habits » in the UAE are disastrous for oral health. « We’re living in a sugar world, and in this region especially, the content of sugar in food is very high. Children need to snack less. »
For parents looking to be more proactive in regards to their child’s oral health, he recommends eating three core meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) – with a snack at 4pm. « Preferably let them snack on something like an apple or banana. Multiple snacks in between meals keeps the acidity of bacteria in the mouth high. » And with an increase in bacteria comes an increase in the possibility of infection.
« You need to let your saliva do its work by washing away that bacteria, » he said. In response to the news that the UAE may seek to bring in a tax on sugar and fizzy drinks, Dr Roze said it is all about « responsibility ». « It is not one fizzy drink that is bad for your health, it is the excess consumption of such sugary produce that leads to health problems. »
So for him, it is up to parents to be « responsible, reasonable and aware ». « Don’t eliminate all treats, just make them exactly what they are.a treat! Have a fizzy drink once a week for instance, not every day. »
Like with any rising health epidemic, Dr Roze said prevention and education is key when it comes to better oral health. « We need to eliminate this fear people have with the dentist. Technology has made procedures so much less invasive nowadays. »
And once again, he said it is a matter of common sense. « If you don’t keep a check on your oral health it will lead to other health issues, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory infections, or diabetic complications. »